Handling the death of a loved one is already a difficult time. Having to handle what comes next can make it even more so. To help you know what needs to be taken care of after your loved one dies, we’ve created an after death checklist.
What to Do Immediately After Someone Dies
Legal Death Pronouncement
The first thing you’ll need to take care of is getting a legal death pronouncement. You’ll need this to get the death certificate and other paperwork later on.
If the deceased died in a hospital or nursing home, the staff at the facility should be able to help you acquire one. If they died at home, you’ll need a medical professional to declare them dead. Call 911 to have them transported to a hospital, where staff will provide the legal pronouncement.
Notify Necessary Parties – Family, Friends, Employer, etc.
You’ll also want to notify anyone who will need to know about your loved one’s death. Make a list of everyone who you need to notify and how you should tell them.
For close family members and friends, you’ll probably want to notify them in person or on the phone. To communicate the news to others who need to know, like friends and other relatives, a text message can be a good choice.
To notify anyone whose number you don’t know or you might not think to call, social media is another way to communicate. This can also help you to spread the message about any funeral or memorial plans.
Remember to contact the deceased’s employers. They’ll need to know right away in order to handle payroll and work tasks. This is also a good time to find out how to acquire any last paychecks and your loved one’s personal belongings.
Make Arrangements for Dependents – Children, Pets, etc.
If the deceased had any dependents, like pets or children, they need to be taken care of. If there is no other parent in the picture, you’ll need to find out who the deceased named as their children’s guardians.
In the meantime, you’ll need to find someone to look after any dependents while permanent arrangements are being made. For pets, you can look into foster organizations to see if they can help find a temporary placement.
If there are any children, you’ll need someone to look after them while the elected guardian is notified to pick them up.
Find Out If the Deceased Made After-Death Plans – Funeral, Burial, Cremation
You’ll also want to find out if the deceased has already made after-death plans. They might have already made funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements. If not, you’ll want to find out what their funeral desires were so you can start planning.
What to Do Within a Few Days of Death
Find End-of-Life Paperwork
To know what your loved one’s wishes were, you’ll need to find any end-of-life paperwork. This can include their will, funeral desires and arrangements, and any other after-death plans.
Make Memorial or Funeral Arrangements
Once you have the paperwork, you can facilitate the deceased’s funeral plans. If they already have arrangements made, you simply need to contact the necessary parties. If they have a burial plot and funeral plans already made, you just need to contact the funeral home.
If the deceased does not already have funeral service plans in place, find out what their wishes were. They might have specified what kind of arrangements they’d prefer.
Sometimes no prior plans exist. In this case, you and your family need to start making decisions on what will be done.
Keep in mind if the deceased practiced any particular religion. Each religion tends to have specific burial requirements. If you’re unsure about a religion’s practices, ask other family members or your loved one’s religious community.
Secure Assets and Carry Out Other Important Tasks
There are some additional tasks to consider. If the deceased lived alone, make sure the property is locked and remove any valuables to another location. You’ll also want to forward their mail to yourself or another family member. This will help to avoid a break-in. It might also be helpful to ask a neighbor to keep an eye on the property.
What to Do Within a Few Weeks
Secure Certified Copies of Death Certificates
You’ll need a death certificate to shut down accounts, file insurance claims, access bank accounts and safety deposit boxes, register the death to government agencies, and more. Get around a dozen certified copies of the death certificate, as each of these tasks will require sending one.
Funeral homes can help you get copies of the death certificate. Alternatively, you can order copies online via your state’s website. Keep in mind that the certificate will be held by the state where the deceased died.
Find the Will and the Executor
If there was a will, you’ll need to find the document and the executor. The executor is responsible for complying with the will’s wishes. If you do not know who your loved one wanted to be named executor, it should be stated in the will.
You might not be sure if your loved one had a will. Check where they kept their important papers, like a safe, office, or lockbox. Also, see if they had any safety deposit boxes.
If they did not have a will or estate plan, find out what your state’s laws are for dividing assets. Usually, the estate will be divided among the deceased’s spouse or children. If they had neither, parents or siblings would likely inherit any assets.
Determine What Will Happen to Their Assets
Determining what happens to the deceased’s assets can get complicated. To make this process easier, you should consider hiring a trusts and estate attorney. However, you don’t need one to execute the will.
You will, however, probably need an account. A CPA will help settle the final tax return, which needs to be filed on the deceased’s behalf.
Next, the executor should take the will to the probate court office. The probate process will determine if the deceased has any outstanding debts that must be paid before assets are distributed.
Finally, you’ll need to take an inventory of what assets the deceased had and what continuing bills or costs exist. Take this into consideration while dividing assets among beneficiaries.
Government Agencies to Notify and Other Important Tasks
You’ll need to inform the government of the death. Here’s a list of government agencies and private companies that you’ll need to notify.
- Social Security Administration – if the deceased was receiving social security checks, you’ll need to contact the SSA office to let them know to stop sending them. Funeral directors can help with this.
- Motor Vehicle Division – you’ll need to cancel the deceased’s driver’s license.
- Insurance Companies – make sure you find and notify all insurance companies. This includes health insurance and life insurance coverage.
- Banks and Financial Advisors – contact all financial institutions to distribute assets. After this is done, you’ll want to close their accounts and credit cards and transfer the remaining funds to the appropriate beneficiaries.
- Credit Agencies – contacting credit agencies and sending them copies of the death certificate can prevent identity theft. Send this information to one of the three major agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion
- Recurring Service Providers – cancel any recurring services or subscriptions, like cable and internet.
- Passport Office – while not required, you can send the deceased’s passport with their death certificate to prevent identity theft.
- Voter Registration – contact local or state officials to remove the deceased from the voting rolls.
- Online Accounts – close any other online accounts, such as social media and email accounts.
Who Can Help with Getting Your Affairs in Order?
Taking care of end-of-life arrangements can be overwhelming. Remember that you don’t need to do it alone. Having family, friends, and experts help get your loved one’s affairs in order can be a huge relief.
Need expert help? Contact The Legacy Lawyers at 800-840-1998.